A Hawthorne woman has been sentenced for submitting more than $7 million through her company in fraudulent claims to Medicare primarily for power wheelchair that patients did not need.
The claims filed by 51-year-old Adeline Ekwebelem through Gardena company Adelco Medical Distributors Inc. caused the Medicare program to lose nearly $3.5 million, the same amount she pocketed, according to investigators with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Office of the Inspector General and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Investigators say the company billed Medicare for unnecessary equipment, primarily power wheelchairs, for people who were often recruited off the street between January 2007 and December 2011.
Ekwebelem, who was found guilty of 16 counts of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, health care fraud and payment of illegal kickback, was sentenced to 78 months in federal prison on Wednesday and ordered to pay $3.45 million in restitution to the Medicare program.
Doctors who received kickbacks from her as part of the scheme were also charged. One has been sentenced to two years in federal prision; another is a fugitive after disappearing a month before his trial, according to investigators.